The Perfect Cola Shelf – According to the Brain
Tom van Bommel
Responsible for this research
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How Vrumona increased cola sales by over 3% for the entire category
It sounds so simple: organizing the Cola shelf. But those who venture into it soon encounter devilish dilemmas.
Do you place the most popular brands directly next to each other, or is it better to include a private label in between? How do you make sugar-free options intuitively discoverable? How do you distribute different sizes and packaging types?
It is precisely these dilemmas that are crucial for the sales success of the soft drink category, as recent neuromarketing research conducted by Vrumona in collaboration with Unravel Research reveals.
Tools Retail research
Why shelf organization cannot be surveyed
Which shelf layout is most effective in lifting the sales of a category? For a long time, retail researchers found it difficult to answer that question.
Of course, you can ask shoppers about their search strategies and shelf preferences. But because purchasing decisions are often made rapidly – in just a few hundred milliseconds our brains have often made the decision – that only scratches the surface.
Shelf processing in the brain
The fact that shelf processing cannot be captured by a questionnaire is evident from the increasing interest in the unconscious side of the decision-making process. These methods fall under the term neuromarketing shelf research.
In this approach, shoppers are no longer asked to reflect on their search and decision-making process afterwards. Instead, biometric techniques are employed to measure that decision-making process while the customer processes the shelf. This involves using Eye Tracking (which measures where the shopper is looking) in combination with brain activity related to emotion and workload (measured with EEG).
These shelf factors were tested
We tested various shelf layouts, varying in dimensions such as brand position and how size and sugar content were clustered. The goal was to discover which layout is the most brain-friendly.
Respondents were shown the different shelf layouts in random order, allowing them to make both targeted and free choices. Eye Tracking and EEG mapped out how the shelves were processed down to the millisecond.
The neuro-shelf test thus mapped out the level of attention, discoverability, and purchase activation for each shelf layout. By comparing these with the current baseline shelf, Vrumona gained insights into the factors that led to category sales maximization. And one factor clearly stood out above the rest.
The position of Coca-Cola and Pepsi is crucial
Cola shoppers are primarily brand-oriented. Compared to layouts that prioritized organization by packaging type or sugar use, brand blocks proved to be the most effective in grabbing the shopper's attention and prompting action.
But brand blocks alone are not enough; the way the brands are positioned relative to each other is crucial. A layout where the cola giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi are positioned directly next to each other does not work optimally. This aligns with broader research, where showing popular brands directly next to each other makes the decision-making process more challenging, leading to more people dropping out and/or spending less. It is more effective to place the private label between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Shelves that followed this rule consistently performed the best in the test.
Follow-up with in-store pilot: over 3%
revenue growth for the entire category
revenue growth for the entire category
After the research identified the winning shelf layout, it was time to rigorously test it in the store. Following an extensive pilot in 30 Albert Heijn stores where the cola shelf was redesigned, a success formula emerged: over 3% revenue growth in the entire cola category.
"A win for both the shopper, retailer, and Pepsi."
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